German Prefix Verbs Explained – “ausgehen”

ausgehen-rausgehen-meaningHello everyone,

and welcome to a new episode of our series about German prefix verbs – this time with a look at the meaning of



Just like Engish out  the German aus has the following two somewhat independent core ideas: outside-ness and off-ness. Today, we’ll see both of them in action and we’ll actually see that they’re not all that far apart.
Let’s start with the idea of off-nessAusgehen with the off-aus is the German verb for to turn off.  Well, we should say to turn off by itself because ausgehen does NOT work for you turning off something. 

 Only for stuff turning off by itself. The light can go out (ausgehen) , but you cannot “go out (ausgehen) the light”.
This ausgehen is mega common and it works for a wide range of things, like a fire, a radio or a tap.

Now, where the lights go when they go out totally depends on the light. My kitchen light for example usually goes to a bar to have a few Bud Light… haha.
Now you’re like “Is he drunk?!”. To which I say: not really. Uh… I mean not at all. The stupid stuff about my light going out was just to show you how the idea of off and outside are connected. It’s the idea of not being there. When the kitchen light goes out, it’s not in the kitchen anymore. And if your flatmate goes out she’s not in the kitchen. And that brings us right to the next meaning of ausgehen, this time based on the outside-ness idea. And it  simply means to go out in sense of hitting the town,

Now, even though this ausgehen is stull kind of standard and fairly common, I feel like it slowly starts to become a little… dated. It’s used in more official contexts like tourist information brochures or stuff like that and it works fine for a couple going to the opera. But people around my age (114 years old) usually don’t use it. Here’s a little overview over the words and what to use them for:

  • Party machengeneric term for partying, works for drinking at home as well as going out
  • feiern gehen at least in Berlin, this is the number one phrase for clubbing and dancing
  • was trinken gehenvolunteer on the animal farm… kidding, you know what it means
  • was machen most generic one. Can mean having a few beers, going to a club, going to Cirque du Soleil… anything really that goes beyond staying at home on the couch. 

I use all of the above at times… but not really ausgehen. So… ausgehen does mean to go out on the town and you will definitely see it used that way but when you talk to friends I’d say don’t use it… it just sounds a tad bit too formal.
All right.
Now, going out is fun, but there are those days where you don’t want to do anything. You just want to sit at home and watch a DVD or read a book. And that brings us right to the next meaning of ausgehen… 

Yap, ausgehen is a very common word for to end in the context of stories. You can think of it as a sort of exit of the story or you can think of it as the story shutting itself off. So either notion of aus makes some sense. The verb is mainly used for novels and movies but it also works for real life stories.

And speaking of politics, we can head right over to the next ausgehen

Note that in German it is always the thing that does the ausgehen never the person. The money can ausgehen, but you cannot ausgehen of money”. In German, the thing is always the subject, and the person who runs out of it is some sort of object.  Here’s another example: 

All right.
Now, the meanings we’ve seen so far already make ausgehen a quite useful word. But there’s another super useful use for us.

The combination “von aus” is quite common in German. It expresses origin, the starting point of a journey.

The von alone would theoretically be enough here but hey, doppelt hält besser, as we say. Why not use two at once. The aus just kind of underlines this whole “This is the starting point”-aspect. Anyway, the phrasing ausgehen von is not abouty going somewhere in the real world though, it’s about starting points for your thoughts.

Literally this means something like this:

  • I start at idea that you come.

This is a base assumption for my journey of thought, if that makes sense. To think, to assume, to take it… there are several options for a translation so let’s just look at some examples

And here’s one more example… can you find the joke ;)?

Oh man, so funny… erm… anyways, these were the different meanings of ausgehen and they’re all pretty useful.
As far as related words go, there’s really one that matters: der Ausgang, which most of you probably know this as exit. It’s more broad than that but I’m sure that now that you know th escope of the verb, you can get all the other meanings from context.

All right.
Now, we’re almost done for today but of course there’s one super important part missing… the infamous r-version.


As always, the r-version takes the combination of verb and prefix literally. Forget meta crap like hitting the town – rausgehen means to go outside. Plain and simple. The difference is only one letter, little more than a gentle throat clearing; and still rausgehen  and ausgehen  feel REALLY different. Ausgehen simply does absolutely NOT work for simple going outside.

  • Wollen wir ausgehen?

If you were to say that at a bar your friends would be super confused… like… what? We’re at a bar. So we ARE out already. If you want to ask them to come outside, you really, really need this little r there.

And rausgehen has some abstract powers too, so here’s an example for that:

I know it’s hard to believe but using ausgehen in this last example would sounds really really weird. So… MIND THE R!!!

And I think with that said.. we’re done and we can go raus. Or aus. Or back to work.
This was our look at the meaning of ausgehen, overall a really really useful verb that you’ll see and hear a lot.
As always if you have any questions or suggestions just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.


** ausgehen – fact sheet **

meanings and structures: 

ausgehen (to turn off/be turned off… devices switching from on to off)
ausgehen (to to out on the town … party, dinner, culture)

etwas geht jemandem aus (somebody runs out of something, often money or time – mind the reversed grammatical roles)

von etwas ausgehen (to assume/expect/plan with something)
davon ausgehen, dass (to assume/expect/plan with the fact that)

spoken past:
form of sein + ausgegangen

written past:
ausging- /ging- aus

related words:
der Ausgang – the exit, the outcome, the result, the ending
die Ausgangssperre – the curfew
die Ausgehmeile – shopping and party area… has a “touristy” undertone
ausgehend von – assuming
die Ausgangslage – the initial/starting situation

direct opposites:
angehen (to be switched on/turn on)
zu Hause bleiben (to not go out on the town :)

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